Ugly, ugly office parks. Boring, soulless buildings ringed by parking lots ringed by immaculately-manicured lawns ringed by streets with names like “Trade Center Drive” and “Sun Center Drive.” Monday through Friday, these dreary boxes are filled with hordes of white-collar workers segregated by cubicle walls. Who would expect to find a historic cemetery in a commercial zone like this?
Well, the OZ team found one here. Matthew Kilgore Cemetery has been in this pocket of Rancho Cordova far longer than the office complexes that surround it. The tiny cemetery was established in 1874 and is currently owned by the City of Rancho Cordova. The layout of the cemetery is straightforward: square plot after square plot after square plot, reminiscent of the cubicles in the nearby office buildings. There are no hills, few trees within the plot area, and no hidden spots.
As we approached the fence, we discovered it had recently been “yarnbombed” by guerrilla knitters. Knitted flowers and snakes adorned the fence as well as one damaged monument. It was a good sign – clearly this place matters enough to earn a few coveted yarnbombs, even though it’s off the beaten path.
A large map and list of graves sits near the entrance, but unfortunately it wasn’t laminated. We found it virtually unreadable due to rain damage.
Rancho Cordova spent over a million dollars to repair and restore the cemetery in 2005, and the work shows. Plots are lined with gravel and surrounded by deep-green lawns, and a smooth horseshoe-shaped path travels around the entire cemetery. Despite all these improvements (not to mention the fact that the cemetery is right next door to a police station) many of the old monuments have been badly damaged by vandals. It’s heartbreaking to see so much damage in such a small graveyard. The cemetery now has a fence with a gate that is locked at night, so vandalism is hopefully a thing of the past. Still, it would be nice to see a few community organizations commit to repairing the damaged stones.
A modern columbarium fills a wall at the back, but the vast majority of spaces remain empty. It seems that few Rancho Cordovans are choosing to be interred in the city’s tiny historic cemetery. Surrounded by so much modern economic growth, Matthew Kilgore Cemetery seems squeezed and constricted, despite the wide expanse of grass at its entrance. It’s tidy and well-maintained, but lacking in charm and atmosphere. In that respect, it’s similar to the cube farms that surround it.